17 MAR 17 – Executive Intelligence Summary – Forward Observer Shop

17 MAR 17 – Executive Intelligence Summary


[wcm_nonmember]In this EXSUM… (3021 words)

  • ASCE publishes 2017 critical infrastructure grades
  • Defense in Brief
  • China & Russia SITREPs
  • Political Violence Roll-Up
  • My take on PIR 4
  • And more…


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Bottom Line Up Front:  This week, various anarchist websites posted articles that further explain training doctrine for future events and protests.  Crimethinc published an article describing the planning process for direct action (https://crimethinc.com/2017/03/14/direct-action-guide).  The article stresses security and displays a general understanding of counterintelligence practices like vetting and operations security (OPSEC).  (Several of the Antifa/anarcho-communist podcasts have also recently talked about the employment of burner phones.)  IGD posted an article entitled, Teaching Revolution: What Role for Direct Action Training? that outlined some missed opportunities for training protestors at the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).  It specifically mentions the Keystone XL pipeline as a future protest action, so we’re very likely to see tactics similar to DAPL on display there.  I would really, really like to do a deep dive into tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) at the DAPL protest to see what could be in store for the upcoming Keystone XL protest.  If you’d like to take part in this study, I’ll start a group on Unseen (http://unseen.is).  Accounts are free; request access to ForwardObserver (me) and let me know you want in the Keystone Working Group.  To reiterate, we’ll be identifying some baseline TTPs exhibited at DAPL and then we’ll review the Keystone XL protests when they begin to see if anything has changed.  That might give us an indication that protesters are becoming more effective, organized, violent, etc.  (We should also begin looking at monitoring protests against the Great Wall of Trump on the southern border.  I expect those protests to be much uglier than DAPL, not only due to desert conditions but also due to its effects on the human terrain.Begin thinking of every protest/direct action as a scrimmage where protestors become more experienced; they’ll trade ideas, teach and influence, improve security, see what works and what doesn’t, and refine their techniques to maximize disruptions for the next event.

On a separate note, I’ve been listening to some Antifa podcasts over the past couple weeks and I’m adding a few to my weekly podcast stable.  I don’t have time (or the patience) to listen to them all, so if you have an hour or two each week and would like to help me listen for any significant information, please let me know.  Just send me an email.  I’d like to ask you to listen and take notes on anything relevant to TTPs or direct observations about previous or future riots/protests; with the goal of helping to drill down on the direction of the movement, specifically for early warning of an increase in violent activity.

Lastly, I want to thank you for the continued support.  We’re in the very beginning stages of a protracted political conflict, which not only has the possibility of developing into an armed political struggle, but also carries with it very profound national consequences.  Right now, I believe that we’ll continue to see political violence on a limited basis while political resistance to the Trump administration tries to hamper policies leading into 2018’s mid-term elections.  (We may also see district-specific violence and intimidation during that election cycle.)  Should the Democrat party be unsuccessful in ousting Republican control of the Congress, I do believe that we’ll see an increase in political violence.  If you want to stay a step ahead, observe locally and take notes.


Priority Intelligence Requirements:

PIR1: What are the current indicators of systems disruption or instability that could lead to civil unrest or violence?

PIR2: What are the current indicators of an outbreak of global conflict?

PIR3: What are the current indicators of organized political violence?

PIR4: What are the current indicators of economic, financial, or monetary instability?

PIR1: What are the current indicators of systems disruption or instability that could lead to civil unrest or violence?

ASCE publishes 2017 critical infrastructure grades

Another year, another D.  The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) recently published their 2017 report on the health of US critical infrastructure, which they graded a D+.  Aviation, dams, drinking water, energy, hazardous waste, inland waterways, levees, parks, roads, schools, transit and wastewater all received grades between D- and D+.  To be clear, ASCE does have a vested interest in low grades to keep civil engineers employed and their critical infrastructure projects funded; however, this nation really is facing a critical infrastructure crisis.  Last year, DHS reported that failing critical infrastructure posed the greatest threat of systems disruption in the US.  You can read the entire ASCE report and look up your state information here.

PIR2: What are the current indicators of an outbreak of global conflict?

The prospects of global conflict continue to revolve around the usual players: Russia, China, and the Middle East. The ways in which global conflict could cause or contribute to a SHTF scenario in America are myriad and they largely depend on which conflict is initiated. We’re certainly at risk of cyber attack in the event of conflict in any of the three regions. Systems disruption, like the price and availability of fuel, is also a top concern that could cause a SHTF event.

Defense in Brief:

The deputy director of the NSA Richard Ledgett this week labeled Iran as one of “the top five countries” the US is concerned with from a cyber perspective, noting that Iran has waged cyber attacks against the US in the past.  Speaking at a cybersecurity summit this week entitled, “Is America Losing the Cyber War?”, Ledgett recalled that Iran was responsible for a series of denial of service attacks against the US financial sector from 2012 to 2014, and also an attack against a dam in upstate New York, where Iranian hackers attempted to control the dam’s operational functions.  US policy makers now consider cyber attacks a more pressing threat than terrorism.  (SOURCE)



There’s been no significant escalation in a potential conflict with NATO and Russia since last week, however, both nations have continued to grow military procurement and expand their military presence in the eastern Europe region.  My continued belief is that when oil prices eventually rebound, we could see an escalation.  Over the past couple years, between sanctions and low oil prices, Putin has been forced to drain his government’s national reserve funds to continue modernizing and growing the military.  That’s been a stop gap measure, however, even that came to an end this week as Putin was finally forced to cut the 2017 military budget by 25 percent (which was initially planned late last year).  Due to the rapid increases in military spending since 2011, this budget cut puts Russia back to just above 2014 spending levels.  Overall, it’s not a game changer but it’s likely to affect Russian military operations and preparedness in the future.

Another significant development this week was news that Russia’s new National Guard conducted their first snap-checks.  Nearly a year ago, FO reported that Russian president Vladimir Putin had ordered the creation of the new branch of the military in order to deal with domestic issues like terrorism and organized crime (i).  This week’s snap check echoes a series of military readiness drills ordered last year by Putin to ensure that the Russian military is able to rapidly mobilize and deploy during a conflict with NATO.  According to a press release, the Russian National Guard “will practice their readiness to combat subversive activity and reconnaissance groups, terrorist and extremist formations, and will also carry out a set of measures to strengthen the defense of crucial state facilities in the areas of power supplies, industry and transport” (ii).

Overall, the situation appears stable but tense, and both sides have expressed interest in working together for regional stability.  That’s done little to ease European concerns over a Russian invasion of the Baltics, however. This week Russia and Belarus are participating in a joint air defense exercise, presumably to test defenses to be used during a NATO conflict (iii).  We should expect Putin to continue reaching out to nations within his sphere of influence and encouraging military readiness among his allies.

Read File:

(i) Putin announces establishment of Russian National Guard

(ii) Russia’s National Guard launches first ever snap checks

(iii) Belarusian, Russian military practice operating joint regional air defence



One trend I’ve watched for the past couple months is President Trump, SECDEF Mattis, and SECSTATE Tillerson express their willingness to work with the Japanese and South Korean militaries to ensure their readiness in the event of a regional conflict with North Korea or China.  This week, Japan deployed its largest warship (a helicopter carrier) to the South China Sea (SCS), ostensibly to test the ship on an extended voyage (i).  That’s a feasible explanation, however, it also likely represents Japan’s interest in preventing China from gaining a stranglehold on the SCS.

In terms of military presence, the region is rapidly escalating between continued Chinese military buildup (ii), construction of Vietnamese military structures (previously reported), and news that the Philippines will also begin building military structures in their offshore territory (iii).  Late last year, it appeared that Filipino president Duterte wanted to become much more friendly with China as he heaped scorn on then-president Obama .  Filipino-Chinese relations after the election of Donald Trump, however, have been mixed.  In response to a Chinese surveying vessel eyeing Filipino territory, Duterte said, “You go there and tell them [the Chinese] straight that this is ours.  But I say it in friendship.” After illegally scooping up territory from the Philippines, it appears that China may not be done with its sea grab.

This week, the Trump administration signaled that Obama’s failed ‘Pivot to Asia’ strategy is over, however, the US military will maintain a very active presence in the region — far more active than under Obama.  (The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson recently left the SCS and is currently sitting off the Korean Peninsula.)   From a military perspective, island chains in the SCS represent a buffer zone from which China can not only control the surrounding waters (interdicting the trade of Chinese adversaries, for instance), but also prevent foreign military access to southern China.  China absolutely expects the possibility of a military confrontation, and they’re currently winning the race to militarize the SCS.

Read File:

(i) Japan deploys largest warship to SCS

(ii) China sends missiles to SCS islands

(iii) Philippines to begin building military structures in SCS

PIR3: What are the current indicators of organized political violence?

Political Threats/Violence Roll-Up:

MO: Shots fired, protests during 12 March Ferguson flare up

TN: Confrontations and arrests at Trump rally in Nashville

VA: Protestors hang banner in yard of Wells Fargo executive (https://itsgoingdown.org/wells-fargo-execs-virginia-beach-mansion-visited/)

SC: Protests set for Sons of Confederate Veterans meeting

CA: “CHP=Nazi Sympathizers” Graffiti in Sacramento (https://itsgoingdown.org/sacramento-ca-chp-nazi-sympathizers-graffiti/)

USA: “Week of Solidarity” 1-7 April (https://itsgoingdown.org/call-week-solidarity-against-repression-april-1-7/)


#Resistance Roll-Up:

Obama returns to community organizing

Democratic Socialists of America claims it triples in size (to 19,000 dues paying members)


PIR4: What are the current indicators of economic, financial, or monetary instability that lead to worsening economic conditions or civil unrest?

My take on PIR 4

Lately I’ve been posting any negative news that I can find, however, it’s been a mixture of informed opinions and crystal balls.  There are traders who say that a market crash is imminent (as they have said for the past several years) and there are others who say that the market has reached a new floor (Dow 30,000!).  There are economists who point out that consumer and CEO confidence are at the highest levels in years, and there are those who say that the Trump bubble is about to burst, leading the US into a recession.  Just a week or two ago, David Stockman called for March 15 to be the top of the market, which he described as the “Ides of March” and warned of an impending market crash on that date.  Guess what — he was also selling his financial advising subscription service.  It should come as no surprise that few forecasters are ever accurate, and almost none are consistently accurate.

I’ve been following the likes of Jim Rickards, Jim Rogers, Marc Faber, Mohammad El-Erian, Nouriel Roubini, David Stockman, Gerald Celente and others — some might call them “alternative economists” because they’re often contrarian — most of whom have been predicting varying degrees of a massive market/economic/financial collapse at least since 2008 when I started following them (and anyone who’s been predicting an imminent collapse has been wrong up to this point — so far).  (I mean, how many articles entitled, “Economist issues dire warning: what you need to know to save your family during the imminent financial collapse” can you actually read, anyway?)  We have folks in this community who’ve been predicting the same things, and it’s scary to think about a financial collapse.  No doubt, that idea alone causes the human brain to assign a much greater likelihood to these events because of our level of fear.  It’s called a heuristic and nearly every human uses them to arrive at safe, but potentially inaccurate, conclusions.  But history shows that individuals just aren’t very good at predicting the future.  For the second half of last year, I felt confident that the US was heading into a recession (as did other economists) in the next 12 months, based on two historically very accurate indicators which I explained in-depth last year.  There are black swans — negative events which are unexpected — and the opposite: white swans, or positive events that are unexpected.  The election of Donald J. Trump is a white swan event, and I think it’s postponed what could have been a very nasty future.  But the keyword there is postponed because I do believe we’re still headed for troubling times.  The question I’m concerned with is, Will it be an overnight event or a 20-year event?  Pending the next market consolidation (which could be five, 10, 20+ percent), I’m leaning more towards a steady decline as I’ve described to students and readers for the past several years.  An overnight ‘collapse’ event is very unlikely, yet not impossible.  ‘The more extreme the prediction, the less likely it is to come true’ is a maxim by which I try to maintain some sanity.  It’s a great rule of thumb.

This week I had the pleasure of meeting Jim Rickards, an economist, banker, and financial advisor.  He’s a New York Times best-selling author of several books, including The Death of Money, Road to Ruin, Currency Wars, and The New Case for Gold.  On a macro level, he’s a doomer.  He describes massive changes to the geopolitical landscape, the globalist agenda for consolidation of power, a race to the bottom and global devaluation of currency, etc.  Eventually, he’s going to be right but we can’t bank on him or anyone else to ‘call the market’.  Because, in fact, few people, if anyone, are able to call major shifts in the market right before they happen; at least not consistently.  In many cases, economists and prognosticators shoot first and call whatever they hit their ‘target’.  For the record, I have a great amount of respect for Jim Rickards (and Jim Rogers and Marc Faber, for that matter); however, these economists appear on CNBC, Fox Business, Bloomberg Markets, and RT so often because they’re such contrarian and doom/gloomers.  (This is an example of frequency bias, where we hear or see predictions of collapse so frequently that it causes us to place more importance on the frequency of that information than is actually due.)

Over the past month, I have considered replacing or modifying this PIR for a few of reasons.  The first is that I just post bad news and worse predictions here and I’m not actually sure it acts as ‘early warning’ anymore (if at any time it did).  The fact of the matter is that most professional economists have horrible track records.  Nassim Nicholas Taleb has proposed calling economics — what’s referred to as the “dismal science” — the “empty profession” or the “wrongest profession” (right behind those sociologists!).

The second reason is that most of us know that something bad is on the horizon, whether we expect it in the next 10 ten years or the next 10 minutes.  (The truth is that we’re likely to experience it somewhere in between.  A future recession is undeniable and I expect it to be worse than 2008’s.)  There’s probably nothing that I can do over and above what other traders and economists do to ‘front run’ a major financial event.

And the third reason is that we may be years from an event like this.  I look at the Trump administration’s economic policies as kind of a ‘reset’ that has breathed life back into the US economy.  There’s still a large gap between rhetoric and policy action, however, Americans are betting on Trump. (Big league, believe me.  The best bets.  It’s gonna be spectacular.)  I don’t want to feed into the financial doom and gloom any more than I have to, and so on this near-term, kind of tactical level, anything I post will further cement this idea that societal collapse is right around the corner, just has it has been for the past decade.  Anyone who reads Zero Hedge on a regular basis understands that they’ve been selling a collapse for years, and actual reality has defied their own that they publish on a day to day basis — all for advertising revenue, mind you.

So what I propose to do is to turn PIR 4 into more of an opinion roll up.  I’d like to include statements made each week by the ‘doom and gloomers’ as well as more moderate financial advisors like Michael Shedlock and James Altucher.  (Altucher was predicting the Dow would hit 20,000 all the way back in 2011!  Nearly six years ago, I sighed and rolled my eyes, but Altucher was right.)  I think this will give PIR 4 a more even keel; a more moderate approach and hopefully a more accurate one, too.  And then you can decide which of the various cases for the future to believe.


Mike Shelby is a former military intelligence NCO and contract intelligence analyst. He spent three years in Iraq and Afghanistan and is now the intelligence and warfare researcher at Forward Observer.

1 Comment

  1. Very well done! PIR 4 made a lot of sense and I am glad that you are going for a more balanced set up to show both sides. I too have followed the Gloom and Doom crowd which encouraged me to pull 90% of my 401K out of stocks and into the cash fund Aug of 2015. A week later the market tanked but has slowly come back up and then some. The Trump Effect seems to be holding things steady (for now).
    I have been informing my peers of the IDG organization and when they look at the web page they are dumb founded. Also point out “Why do you think the media refused to call the self proclaimed Anarchist/Communist what they are instead of “Antifascist”? Were they that kind to the TEA Party? Nope. Keep the info coming!

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